Skip to main content

The Differences between Wet and Dry Coughs

difference between wet and dry coughs chinese herbs for cough productive vs unproductive coughs

Coughing is such a common symptom nowadays. You hear it in the bus, the trains, the malls — coughs are everywhere! If you were to listen carefully, you would notice that not all coughs sound the same. Different coughs should be treated differently.

Understanding the characteristics of different types of coughs can help us address them effectively through TCM principles and treatment methods.

In this article, we will explain the differences between wet and dry coughs in hopes that you get a better understanding of your cough, so that you know what works best to treat it!

What are Wet Coughs?

Let’s begin with wet coughs!

Wet coughs are also called “productive” coughs because they produce phlegm or mucus. Wet coughs often produce a rattling or gurgling sound due to the presence of mucus in the airways.

This kind of cough feels like something is blocking your airways (nose and throat). The urge to cough is the body’s natural mechanism. It stems from the need to clear the respiratory tract by coughing up whatever is causing the obstruction. This could be excessive secretions, irritants, or foreign particles.

The mucus or phlegm expelled during a wet cough may vary in color, ranging from clear or white to yellow or green. The consistency can be sticky or thick.

What Causes Wet Coughs?

A wet cough could be indicative of a respiratory infection such as bronchitis or pneumonia. However, resist the urge to panic. This kind of cough could also be brought on by allergens, asthma or exposure to irritants in the environment. It could also be because of sinusitis or post-nasal drip.

In TCM, a wet cough is often associated with an imbalance of the Lung and Spleen systems. The Lung system governs the respiratory function, while the Spleen system is responsible for transforming phlegm and fluids in the body.

How to treat a Wet Cough

It is necessary to stay hydrated if you’re experiencing wet coughs. Consider using a humidifier during bed time. Over-the-counter expectorants like Guaifenesin may help in thinning mucus and ease coughing.

Suppose your coughing persists even after two weeks, seek medical advice from a licensed healthcare professional. This is especially crucial in the event that there are other accompanying symptoms like difficulty breathing, wheezing and chest constriction.

TCM treatment methods may include herbal medicine, acupuncture, dietary adjustments, and lifestyle modifications.

Herbal treatment aims to resolve the underlying imbalance, clear phlegm, and restore normal healthy Lung and Spleen function. This is done through the use of Chinese herbs that possess different functions. For example, at the base level, there will be herbs with antimicrobial function and those that are expectorant and mucolytic.

Then, to prevent any further damage to the lower respiratory tract, there will be herbs that are mild bronchodilator and have anti-inflammatory action. Lastly, there are herbs that reduce the histamine response, calm throat irritation and are a balm to the mucus membranes in the upper respiratory tract.

Dry Coughs

Next up is dry coughs!

Dry coughs usually produce a hacking or tickling sound, and they can be harsh and repetitive. They are characterized by a tickling or scratching sensation in the throat. This results in a persistent, non-productive cough that is also irritating.

Normally, this type of cough does not dredge up mucus or phlegm. This kind of cough often causes discomfort in the throat and chest. They can be accompanied by a sore or scratchy throat.

Causes of Dry Cough

This cough can be caused by factors like viral infections like the common cold or influenza. It can also be brought on by allergies or certain medications. Dry coughs can also be a result of inhaling respiratory irritants like smoke or dust. Acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) also tend to cause dry coughs.

From a TCM perspective, a dry cough is often associated with Heat or Dryness in the body, particularly in the Lung system. Treatment aims to clear Heat or Dryness, nourish Yin (cooling and moisturizing energy), and restore the balance of Qi (energy).

How to treat a Dry Cough

You may find your relief from such coughs by using over-the-counter cough suppressants like dextromethorphan, procodin or dhasedyl. Do note that these are merely suppressants. They do not necessarily address the root cause of the cough.

Uncovering the root cause might lead you to try other strategies like treating your allergies or hydrating yourself regularly to combat dry air.

TCM treatment methods may include herbal remedies, acupuncture, dietary adjustments, and lifestyle recommendations. You may read more about other recommended strategies to combat Dry Coughs here.

In Summary

Understanding the different cough types is helpful in recognizing when a cough may require further attention. It also enables us to tailor our approach to treatment more effectively.

While conventional medicine focuses on symptom relief, TCM does all of that while also addressing the underlying imbalances that perpetuate the cough. If you or your loved ones are experiencing persistent coughing, whether it is wet or dry, get in touch with Chinese Doc — we should be able to help!

Until then, take care of your cough.

If you want to order our very effective TCM Dry Cough Syrup, fill out the form below:

We need your name.
For us to schedule appointments with with you via whatsapp.
For us to send you electronic copies of invoices or for other correspondences.
With relevant information that you provide, you wil get an appropriate cough formula for yourself.


How to get rid of dry coughs?

A holistic approach is essential for relieving and eventually eliminating a dry cough.

  1. Begin by staying hydrated, as drinking plenty of fluids keeps the throat moist, reducing irritation.
  2. Incorporating a humidifier into your living space can help to combat dry air, which is especially beneficial in low-humidity environments.
  3. Avoid irritants such as smoke and consider soothing measures such as cough drops or lozenges.
  4. Take advantage of honey’s natural benefits by mixing it into hot tea to soothe your irritated throat – important that you are able to source quality honey though!
  5. Although over-the-counter cough suppressants and throat lozenges may provide temporary relief.
  6. Coughing can also be reduced by inhaling steam and elevating your head while sleeping.

What is a wet cough?

 A productive cough, also known as a wet cough, is defined by the expulsion of mucus or phlegm from the respiratory system. In contrast to a dry cough, which is ineffective and lacks mucus, a wet cough involves the production and release of excessive secretions. This type of cough is frequently used by the body as a defense mechanism to clear the airways of irritants such as bacteria or foreign particles.

A wet cough can be caused by respiratory infections, bronchitis, pneumonia, or postnasal drip caused by allergies. A wet cough’s sound and sensation are frequently described as “rattling” or “congested” due to the presence of mucus. While a wet cough is unpleasant, it is essential for expelling irritants and promoting respiratory health.

Addressing the underlying cause, staying hydrated, and, in some cases, using medications to help loosen and clear mucus from the airways are all possible treatments. If a wet cough persists or is accompanied by severe symptoms, it is best to seek medical attention for a proper diagnosis and treatment.

Why we get dry cough at night?

Experiencing a dry cough at night can be caused by a number of factors.

  1. One common cause is a lack of moisture in the air, particularly in bedrooms where heating or air conditioning systems may contribute to dryness.
  2. The lack of humidity can irritate the throat, resulting in a persistent dry cough.
  3. Furthermore, postnasal drip, a condition in which mucus from the nasal passages drips down the back of the throat, can be more noticeable when lying down, causing nighttime coughing.
  4. Another possible cause is gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which occurs when stomach acid flows back into the esophagus during the night, irritating the throat and causing a dry cough.
  5. Asthma, allergies, or respiratory infections can all have worsened symptoms at night. Staying hydrated, using a humidifier, and practicing good sleep hygiene are all effective ways to reduce nighttime dry coughing.

If the problem persists or worsens, consulting with a healthcare professional can assist in determining the root cause and developing an effective treatment plan.

Causes of dry cough and shortness of breath?

Dry cough and shortness of breath can be caused by a variety of factors, including:

  1. Respiratory infections such as the common cold or flu, which frequently cause irritation in the airways.
  2. Allergies to substances such as pollen or pet dander.
  3. Asthma, a chronic condition characterized by inflamed airways, can cause persistent coughing and difficulty breathing.
  4. Environmental factors such as smoke or pollution can aggravate respiratory distress.
  5. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) causes stomach acid to irritate the esophagus, causing a dry cough and shortness of breath.
  6. Another possible cause is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes conditions such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
  7. Heart problems, medication side effects, and emotional factors like anxiety may all play a role.

Which deficiency causes dry cough?

While vitamin D deficiency is well known for its potential impact on respiratory health, it is also important to recognize that other deficiencies or health conditions can contribute to a dry cough.

Deficits in vitamin C or zinc, for example, may weaken the immune system, making a person more susceptible to respiratory infections.

Anemia caused by iron deficiency can cause fatigue and shortness of breath, as well as a dry cough.

Furthermore, certain respiratory conditions, such as asthma or allergies, may not be directly related to nutritional deficiencies but can still cause persistent coughing and difficulty breathing.

From a TCM point of view, it is the scorching Lung Fire that causes Lung Yin deficiency that is associated with a dry cough. Herbal formulation will have to take the Yin deficiency into account and includes herbs like Rehmannia, Adenophora and Ophiopogonis.

What causes dry cough and shortness of breath?

Dry cough and shortness of breath can be caused by a number of factors other than respiratory infections and chronic conditions.

  1. Exposure to air pollution, occupational hazards, and secondhand smoke may all contribute to these symptoms.
  2. Smoking and poor air quality are both examples of lifestyle choices that can have a significant impact.
  3. Furthermore, autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, genetic conditions such as cystic fibrosis, and hormonal imbalances such as hypothyroidism can all have an impact on the respiratory system, resulting in coughing and breathing difficulties.
  4. Stress and anxiety, for example, can exacerbate or mimic respiratory problems.
  5. Lastly, from a Chinese medicine perspective, lung yin deficiency and a deficient lung qi is associated with dry cough and shortness of breath. Treatment will always include herbs to enrich lung yin, moisturize and lubricate the lung and throat, as well as open the lung to treat shortness of breath.

Understanding Dry and Wet Cough Syrup, Understanding the Difference Between Dry and Wet Cough, and Picking the Most Effective Treatment Tips

Navigating the realm of respiratory discomfort involves understanding the difference between dry and wet cough. The difference between a dry and wet cough lies in the presence of mucus, with the former characterized by the absence of phlegm. To address these distinct cough types, one often turns to remedies such as dry and wet cough syrup.

Dry cough syrup is designed to alleviate throat irritation and tickling sensations, offering relief without promoting mucus production. In contrast, wet cough syrup aims to thin and expel excess mucus, making it easier to clear the airways. By recognizing the disparity between dry and wet coughs and choosing the appropriate cough syrup, individuals can tailor their approach to find optimal respiratory relief.

Causes of Dry Cough and Treatment:  Factors to Consider and Effective Solutions

Pinpointing the causes of a dry cough and treatment is fundamental for devising an effective plan. Dry coughs can be triggered by a range of factors, including infections, environmental irritants, allergies, or underlying medical conditions. Once the specific cause is identified, targeted treatments can be employed to address the root issue. Lifestyle modifications and medications often play a pivotal role in managing dry cough symptoms.

Moreover, the choice between dry and wet cough syrups becomes crucial in tailoring relief. While dry cough syrup focuses on soothing irritation without stimulating mucus, wet cough syrup aids in expelling excess phlegm, facilitating improved respiratory comfort. In essence, a personalized approach to understanding the causes of dry cough and treatment including the choice of cough syrup, enhances the prospects of effective and enduring relief.